The Indian government had asked Twitter to block certain accounts and tweets that were tweeting on Kashmir and spreading rumours and indulging in fear-mongering. In what could set a new precedent, Twitter blocked these accounts and withheld dozens of tweets in response.
In a letter dated August 24, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asked Twitter to block 19 accounts and it mentioned 95 tweets from various handles that the ministry wanted blocked. The ministry invoked Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and wrote to Twitter for blocking 115 Twitter handles/tweets.
A committee to examine the requests had met on August 4 and recommended blocking or removal of the tweets or accounts in the ‘interest of public order as well as for preventing any cognizable offence’. Under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, a committee of joint secretaries, from the ministries of IT, law and justice, home affairs, information and broadcasting and the Indian Computer Emergency Response, can decide on any content to be blocked under the IT Act.
In response to this request by the government, Twitter wrote to multiple account holders telling them it had got ‘official communication’ regarding their handles and the ‘correspondence claims that the following tweet(s) is/are in violation of Indian law’. It said: “We may be obligated to take action regarding the content identified in the complaint in future.” Twitter asked the account holders if they would voluntarily remove the identified content.
Social media is used extensively for rumour-mongering especially with regards to Kashmir. Not only are fake accounts created to propagate false information particularly in relation to defaming the country and the Indian Army, but even some established accounts with tens of thousands of followers dispel ridiculous lies about the state (one so called journalist even passed of the picture of Syria as that of Kashmir). Such false propaganda is dangerous and must be curbed. It is good to see that the government is taking notice and hopefully will continue to do so.